After an early proposal to require Breathalyzers in Utah bars became the butt of national jokes, a House committee on Wednesday endorsed a watered-down version to merely make it easier for bars to offer such vending machines.
The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously to advance HB190 to the full House.
“This bill is not a mandate of any kind,” said its sponsor, House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper. He once told the press he was considering mandates, but avoided them after noting some national media described that as a draconian measure that would make Utah’s unique liquor laws stranger.
The bill as now drafted would ensure the anonymity of people who use the machines, Hughes said, and avoid any results from being used against them later by law officers. It also would protect bar owners from being sued if a patron was later arrested for DUI after “passing” a test in a bar.
The bill also sets quality standards — requiring machines or single-use tests to be rated at 99.8 percent accuracy — and requires calibration every 30 days or after 300 uses.
“If we have a speed limit on the road, we want to know how fast we are going so we are obeying the law, so we have a speedometer in the car. If you are a drinker and you know there are certain blood-alcohol limits … having a device on premise would warn you,” Hughes said.
“It would allow for people to make more informed choices when they are deciding when they have had enough or when they would operate a vehicle,” he said.
The bill also would require written warnings that blood-alcohol content could increase after tests, depending on how long it has been since a patron had a drink.
It would also require machines to contain the warning, “The National Transportation Safety Board has found that crash risk is consistently and significantly elevated by the time an individual reaches a blood alcohol content of 0.05.”
In Utah, drivers are considered drunk at .08 BAC. Under federal law, drivers of interstate commercial vehicles are considered drunk at .05.